Suzi's Blog

Classic Coney Sauce

Have you ever orchestrated a surprise for your spouse, a big surprise, and had it not work out exactly as you had fantasized?

I flew Suzen 3000 miles, rented a car, and drove her to a sacred place. Near my boyhood home was, and is, the greatest hot dog stand on the planet. Now known as Roakes, it was The Foot Long, when I grew up in Portland. Long dogs, onions, and the sauce from heaven.

We’d been married for a decade and I had talked and talked about this hot dog stand. Now we were there.

I bought her one, brought it to her, placed it respectfully in front of her, and waited.

Suzen picked it up, smelled it, sighted down the whole length like a rifle barrel, puckered her mouth, took a bite, and chewed. And chewed. And swallowed.

“It’s not Nathan’s,” came her verdict.

I do love her, and I have forgiven her. But I will never forget.

I’m now on a crusade to find a recipe for that sauce. The Foot Long, aka Roakes, won’t give it up. I’m researching on the web and finding lots and lots of recipes. You can search for “hot dog sauce” and “Coney sauce.” Of the ones I have found, this one is the best. I’ve modified it significantly to give the chili punch my memories say are needed. This sauce is delicious and I will use it, while I search for how to modify it to reach the Roakes pinnacle.

If you have a Roakes recipe, please share it. In the meantime, this sauce will make your dogs sensational. Made with all these spices, it is a deep, dark red and actually sticky because of all the spices. Its aromatic richness is the perfect adornment for a dog grilled until it is black and cracked.

Classic Coney Sauce

Yield: 2 quarts of sauce


2 pounds ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup sugar
½ cup vinegar
¼ cup mustard [standard yellow]
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder


Place the ground beef and onions in a large skillet. Cook over medium high heat until the meat is browned. Turn the meat and separate it with a wooden spoon while cooking.

Pour off any fat that has separated during the cooking process.

Add the remaining ingredients, stir to mix thoroughly, and cook over medium heat for 10-20 minutes. Taste test for doneness to please you and to adjust the seasonings.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

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20 thoughts on “Classic Coney Sauce

  1. I’ve been eating Roake’s for over 30 yrs and am trying to figure out the recipe also.
    I think you forgot a little cornmeal and a
    dash of very hot spicy chili pepper.

    I wish I could figure it out! I love Roake’s!!

    I don’t think it has cumin or ketchup. I think
    it might have some tomato paste and definitely has chili powder and garlic.

    I made this 2 nights in a row for my family…and they all LOVE Roake’s…and I’m getting close!!!!

  2. I am 38 my grandparents went to Roakes on their first date. my family resides in Wa. now but all of our extended family lives in Or. I have been going to Roakes since age 4. This is the closest recipe I have ever found! If I could only figure out where to get the footlong dogs and buns I would be set!

    I found this online by googleing Roakes.Sounds unusual. ROAKES HOT DOG SAUCE 4 Beef Garabaldi Tamales 2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese 2 cups water 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (w/o seeds) Follow directions on tamale wrapper. When done, scoop out tamales from wrappers and put in mixer bowl. Add cheese and mix until completely broken up. Add water, pepper flakes and mix. Refridgerate or place over steam to keep warm, (but for no longer than 2 hours.) Yield 10 cups of sauce This recipe is from the Oregonian newspaper c. 1995 (or thereabouts!)

  3. My family and I have lived in the Portland area for the past 10 years. My husband is a native oregonian. We finally visited to famous Roakes hot dog stand after our neighbor raved about how amazing their sauce was. I took a bite and my very first thought was MASA! There must be some added to it. My neighbors mother in-law has been trying to replicate this sauce. She owns a hot dog stand and Im guessing she would like to add the famous sauce to her menu. I mentioned the masa, they didnt know what masa was (masa is the flour used to make tamales) you can buy a 3lb bag of the maseca brand in almost all grocery stores. Also, the roakes sauce is a bit on the tomatoee side…we will see how ours turns out. Im thinking of adding the masa to the ground beef once you brown the meat with onions, maybe add some crused tomatoes to the mix and add your liquids. It will definately give it that lighter taste and not that heavy chilli recipe taste. Still trying to perfect the rest. Good luck with yours!

  4. Lol u guys r too funny, I’m sittin in here with my grandparents, 78 & 80 yrs old. Grampa will drive into town just for his weekly footlongs and they’ve tried for yrs to figure it out. Hope we can crack it one day.

  5. I used to work at a drive in restaurant that was owned by a friend of the Roakes. He used to make a coney sauce that was very similar to Roakes sauce if not the same thing. He would never make the sauce in the restaurant. That was the only recipe we did not have access to. When he made it he would always take a hand full of hot dogs over to the house with him. I think they were ground up in the sauce. I have not tried it yet.

  6. There’s a restaurant on TV highway in Beaverton that used to be a Roake’s back in the day. It’s called Annie’s and they too have a coney sauce that may be on par with the secret recipe.

    Also, there’s a new product out of Canby, Oregon (about 10 miles south the original Roake’s restaurant on McLoughlin Blvd.) that is a premix packet for coney island sauce. Here’s the link:

  7. Sigh. I too have been looking for a recipe. My husband says a 13 hour drive is too much for a hot dog. He dimply does not understand the sacred nature of the Roakes coney dog.

  8. Brian,
    I live in oklahoma now, but have benn craving roakes long dog, and roaker burger for years.

    Annie’s I believe is same recipe. I think there was some sort of family dispute that caused two different names.

    Anyway, if your till in Portland area, get a job at roakes for a few weeks then share results of your findings here .


  9. Brian,
    I love Roakes hot dogs, and your story is similar to mine. I crave them like crack, I am 37 and grew up in Lake Oswego. My Dad, brother, and I went to the Jennings Lodge! Roakes at least 4 times a month growing up. More if we played Clackamas or Rex Putnam baseball teams. My wife is tolerant of them, especially since my only chance to get them is on our yearly roadtrip to see my parents! But, the good news-My kids LOVE them and that makes the vote 3-1.

    My aunt worked at Roakes for a bit-but the recipe is guarded for sure. Here is what I know….

    1. Throw the dogs in the deep fryer for 1 min, that gives even the worst replica dog the SNAP! that you need.

    2. Cumin and Hot Cayenne Pepper are the hot spice you taste. I use them very liberally.

    3. Masa was mentioned! You need that or a tamale to give it the texture and balance the spice. I puree the meat and add 2 hot dogs.

    I use the other ingredients you mentioned.It’s nice to brown the beef with some mustard and spice too.

    YUMMMM! You made me soo hungry 😉

  10. Hey Brian,
    would you update your recipe, if you have changed anything about it. I’m still trying to crack the code to this delicious sauce, Thanks

  11. I lived in Milwaukie year ago and of course Roakes was a regular stop for me. I don’t believe there is anything tomatoeie in that sauce one thing I’m sure is there is well cooked and well blended pinto beans and onions. I knew a person who worked there and he didn’t know how to make it because they were not allowed to see the recipe. He is sure there is dried mustard in it because Roake always had a large supply of it in the storeroom. Does this help??? If you ever figure it out don’t lose my e-mail I would give just about anything to have that recipe. Keep me posted.

  12. Good day Just an FYI Roakes was not always Roakes 50 years ago i went to school with the original founders son. of the hotdog stand it was called Dale&Eds his dad taught me how to make the sauce Roakes just purchased the hot dog stand and the sauce in the 80.s

    • Do you remember how to make it?  I would love to make this.  We are from West Linn and my parents went there when they were dating.  Boy has that area changed.

      • No, I don’t know how to make it. I would love to. I lived a mile away for 14 years and consumed hundreds of those dogs. Now I’m living in Lower Manhattan and can’t find anything anywhere that is even close.

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